Commentary: Coming Off the Ropes

From Arrowhead Stadium

It was a strange juxtaposition in the hour or so after the Chiefs dropped pre-season game No. 3 to the Philadelphia Eagles 20-17.

Todd Haley talked about how his team had taken a couple of early haymakers in Friday night’s game but had held on and actually started counter punching and causing damage to the Eagles.

An hour later, sitting in the press box, the television was on and there was Sylvester Stallone, sitting in the guest chair on Late Night with David Letterman. The sound was muted so the conversation between Letterman and Stallone was impossible to hear, which is OK since neither one really has much that’s noteworthy to say these days.

But there was Rocky Balboa, wearing glasses with light purple lenses and a purple shirt, purple tie and some sort of Italian suit that sells in the four-figure range. He was no longer Rocky Balboa, the Philadelphia pug heavyweight with the battered face that never gave up in the ring, no matter how much blood he spilled.

On Friday night, that was the Chiefs, and particularly their defense. They were Rocky, getting pounded by Apollo Creed. They got knocked around by a superior opponent in the first round, wobbled woozily around the field, but they were able to survive to the bell. They caught their wind, got their wits back about them, fought back and ended up landing some big punches of their own.

They hit the Eagles with everything but the knockout punch they needed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the staying power of Rocky, because in the end they ran out of gas and gave up the winning score in the game’s closing minute.

“They say in boxing that it’s not how hard you punch, it’s how you react after you’ve been punched,” said Haley. “We took a couple pretty good body blows; there might have been a couple of head shots, haymakers, whatever you want to say.

“But guys fought back and made plays.”

When a football team does not win very often, coaches and players search high and low for any type of positive they can draw from the experience. With Haley as head coach, the Chiefs are now 4-19. That’s 0-4 in the 2009 pre-season, 4-12 in the ’09 regular season and now 0-3 in the ’10 pre-season. That’s a winning percentage of .174.

So Haley has spent a lot of time trying to sift through the ashes of another defeat and find something useful. In this case, there was something there Friday night, and it was the ability of the Chiefs to bounce back from an awful start, one they created themselves, and have the game won until the final two minutes.

It was ugly. In the first quarter, Jamaal Charles fumbled. Philly recovered and in two plays, they had a touchdown as LeSean McCoy ran through the Chiefs defense as if it wasn’t there. Next possession, Matt Cassel gets sacked and fumbles. This time, OT Barry Richardson falls on the ball and the Chiefs hold possession. But on their next drive, Cassel throws an interception.

That leads to a FG and a 10-0 lead for the Eagles. On the next kickoff, Dexter McCluster rips off a nice return, only to have 15 yards of it wiped out by a taunting penalty against LB David Herron. The next time they got the ball, on 1st-down LT Branden Albert was called for a false start.

As another famous movie character said, stupid is as stupid does, and that was the Chiefs at the start of Friday night’s game. This was a perfect formula for playing out the game and getting on home for a beer and a little rest.

They did not go in that direction. They fought back. They had the Eagles on their heels with a pass rush that was of the intensity we haven’t seen in recent seasons. They forced a turnover, the defense carried the offense and suddenly they were back in the fight and then ahead on the scoreboard.

“We overcame adversity,” said Cassel. “We started to move the ball and we put some points on the board and at the end of the day, when all of us left the game, we were winning 14-10. If you were to tell me at the start of that game that we were going to leave the game with a lead, I would have been surprised.

“But I was excited about how we responded because I think last year there were times the game started that way and we never got out of the rut, and it was kind of a downward spiral. I was proud of the way we responded today.”

In that iconic movie, Rocky did not win that first fight with Apollo Creed. But he learned something in that fight ā€“ he had what it took to win. Whether or not the Chiefs can take what happened Friday night and turn it into a positive step, we don’t know. They will have to show it on the field.

But the attitude of not giving up is huge for any team that wants to win. Make no mistake the Chiefs want to win. They just don’t know how.

In the Friday night fights at Arrowhead, they got a valuable lesson in how.

6 Responses to “Commentary: Coming Off the Ropes”

  • August 28, 2010  - Chiefs Canā€™t Seal The Deal, Lose 20-17 | Chiefs Football at says:

    [...] COMMENTARY – Coming off the ropes. [...]

  • August 28, 2010  - Edward says:

    The preseason losses are overexaggerated. The Lions went 4-0 in the preseason the yr they lost 16 games. That’s all their regular season games. Most Lions fans I’m sure would trade those 4 preseason wins for 4 regular season wins to keep their name out of the record books for the worst team in NFL history. So bottom line who cares we’re 0-3 in preseason the games don’t count and they’re not putting us any closer to a division win because they don’t count. Stop kicking a dead horse Bob.

  • August 28, 2010  - Nate says:

    Most of the players for both teams that were on the field at the end when the eagles “won” the game won’t make the 53 man roster. so it is meaningless as all preseason wins are. Our 1′s against their 1′s, we “won” the game. What really matters was the inprovement shown by our defense!

  • August 28, 2010  - Tim says:

    He shoulda put some 2s back in to get the win – period.

  • August 28, 2010  - Dave says:

    Matt said it best–when the starters left the game, the Chiefs had the lead. Who knows if they could have sustained it for another quarter, but I think it was a very good performance for the starters given the poor start.

    I was pretty pumped up after the game! How could we take this as anything but a sign of good growth from our team?

  • August 28, 2010  - Tim says:

    Our guys are obviously in shape & it shows. I had a sense we were getting stronger as things went on – with the ones…

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